What Did They Die For?

Created October 23rd, 2020

No reason the number 1,304,679 should mean anything to you. Even the graph I looked it up in didn’t have a total line.

It’s the number of American Armed Services men and women who died in combat in all of our wars combined.

Why did they die for us? Was it just to protect their fellow Americans alive then? I don’t think so.

Of course, they died to protect and preserve not only the American people, but also the American way of life, a way that we wish to everyone in the world, hoping to set a good example for them to follow.

Even before the election is over, let’s start now to go back to that American way of thinking and acting, holding ourselves to the highest standard. We’ve done it for most of the country’s history – admitting FUBAR at all times – we can go back to it again, more easily than it seems right now, in the pressure cooker of the final days before election, in the year that never was.

This is a democracy: there will always be some hold-your-nose compromises.

Get used to it.

There’s a wide bell curve on every issue. Because of that fact, democracy ensures there will always be some people pissed off. Think about it. It’s mathematics.

However: democracy does much more good than harm.

Implication: if we want to keep democracy, we ought not give in to the impulse to escalate “pissed off” to “hate”. Democracy works when we accept what the majority voted for, even if we have to hold our nose for a few years every now and then.

Robert Anson Heinlein was one of the most revered science fiction authors of all time. It would be correct to recognize him however as being more than that, he was a deep thinker and his writings, while fiction, reflected deep speculative thinking about every subject worth thinking about. Like H.G. Wells and Aldous Huxley. His scenarios included utopias as well as dystopias, and utopias which turn into dystopias.

In his novel FRIDAY (1952) about a genetically engineered female human being whose name is Friday, Heinlein brings alive a world which is about to slide into dystopia, in which the U.S.A. has already split into smaller nations, three Confederacies, the Eastern, Central, and Western, accelerating further cultural decay everywhere. A world in which there is no more U.S.A.

Let’s look, like Henry Fonda’s character in “It’s A Wonderful Life” did, at how the world “would be better off without us”.

Here are some excerpts relevant to today, from Friday’s last conversation with her boss, the head of a secret paramilitary organization in which Friday is a courier.

“You should leave this planet,” her boss advises, “for you there is nothing here. The Balkanization of North America ended the last chance of reversing the decay of the Renaissance Civilization.”

“It is a bad sign,” Friday comments, “when the people of a country stop identifying themselves with the country and start identifying with a group.” Like a Party, I thought, reading this. She goes on, listing bad signs she has identified until he interrupts to tell her the worst sign of all.

“Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms such as you have named… but a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.”

I personally don’t feel that the U.S.A. is heading that way, it’s only a few of us who have become rude. I pass these thoughts on in the expectation that the vast majority will recognize the truth when they read it, and a word to the wise is sufficient.

Good people everywhere are the hope of the world, and we have a lot of them here in America. People locked into negativity also exist everywhere, and can be brought gently out of it by the rest of us not losing our tempers at them – that’s just becoming infected by the very thing that maddens us, becoming a Borg ourselves.

Democracy is a way of being that gives everyone else room to be whoever they are, even if they disagree with you on seemingly every little thing.

Democracy is not a simple, old-fashioned idea. It is timeless. It is an ideal that has existed so long as consciousness has existed.

When I rhapsodize about America, people who are more knowledgeable remind me of all the things that were still wrong with the U.S.A. at the start – limited voting rights, slavery, snobbery.

We’ve already licked the first two.

I’d say we were generally on the right track until very recently, and even now there are many recent events we can be proud of, amidst other events that jar us to the very roots.

It would be silly to take on the heavy mantle of defeatism. We ARE going to rise above the muddy rut into which we’ve recently slid.

Nothing, not rudeness, not divisiveness, not ego, not virulent pandemics, not wars, nothing is going to stop the march of history upward from brutes to fully realized noble individuals unified everywhere by kindness and respect.

Education that starts at birth and never veers from this vector is the best that any one of us can do to prepare our progeny to continue this long hard climb when we are gone.

It has become common to imagine that being nice, being kind, is a sign of weakness. In any election, a macho candidate is instinctually more attractive to many people than one who exudes respect for others and conventional gentility. This is empowering old hard-wired circuits in the parts of our brains developed long ago, to rule our lives as if we don’t possess more effective, likely-to-be-right, intellectual and intuitive capabilities in these new cortex-wrapped brains we all have. We ought to make fullest use of all of our brains and everything else we have, bodies and souls, and make all decisions that way.

A Song for Today: Ragged Old Flag by Johnny Cash https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfzJ8UBr-c0

May the Center Hold.

Best to all,

Bill

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